How Estonia can save Western civilization

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Whether you voted for or against Donald Trump last November, in the New Year you should apply for e-Residency in Estonia.

(No, we’re not actually advocating mass exodus from Trump Nation.)

Since 1990, Estonia has embarked on a relentless journey to become the world’s most digitally advanced country. And it has succeeded. The average Estonian pays taxes in three minutes, nearly one-third of Estonians vote online, prescriptions can be picked up from any pharmacy in the country thanks to the national Electronic Medical Record — all done in the most secure, privacy-friendly system of any government.

The investment in infrastructure has not only reduced government expenditures by the equivalent of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), it has also given rise to one of the world’s most entrepreneurial and innovative countries, with the second-largest number of startups per capita.

{mosads}So how can this help Americans?

Just two years ago, Estonia launched e-Residency, which effectively offers this world-class digital infrastructure to non-Estonians. With e-Residency, in less than 24 hours, individuals can remotely set up businesses that have access to the European Union, establish a euro-denominated Estonian bank account, and digitally sign documents that are accepted throughout Europe and many countries beyond.

And it’s cheap at around $100.

At first glance, the notion seems preposterous. How can Estonia, a country with fewer people than Philadelphia and located seven time zones away, possibly help stem the international tide of populism, isolationism and wall-building?

Let’s consider our current situation.

1. Markets have rallied since Election Day, but many economists fear another recession if President-elect Donald Trump enacts his fiscal plan, and another collapse in the housing sector could further cut into Americans’ financial security. An investment and business platform in an underrated, pragmatic, Western-oriented country offers clear advantages.

2. The strongly pro-American Baltic states — Estonia, plus Lithuania and Latvia — could face heightened threats from an aggressive Russian Federation emboldened by the kind of conciliatory approach Trump has promised. U.S. investment and commerce along Russia’s periphery adds a non-military layer of deterrence and support.

3. The European Union remains in disarray following the 2008 global financial crisis, compounded by the more recent influx of migrants and refugees, the British vote to leave the EU, and the rise of extremist movements.

Estonia is both removed from the turmoil and ripe for economic engagement, an ideal gateway to what is fast becoming a post-post-modern continent. And post-Brexit, our longstanding reliance on the United Kingdom as our EU connector may require realignment.

4. America’s commitment to global leadership, which has buoyed our economic and political capital for nearly eight decades, is in danger of losing its rationale if “America first” becomes our new ethos. Formalizing our business and investment commitments internationally, through Estonia, can send a compelling corrective message to decision-makers in Washington and other world capitals.

Many Americans who voted for Democratic nomineeHillary Clinton or third-party candidates — and even for Trump — are uncomfortable with the president-elect’s rhetoric about NATO, Russia and the existing world order. Many of those same Americans value globalization, international relationships, free trade, efficient government and entrepreneurship.

They are looking for ways that they can make a difference, and donating to charities is certainly one of them.

We suggest another: become an e-Resident of Estonia.

Instead of crashing the Canadian immigration service’s website, e-Residency allows you to (much faster and more cost-effectively):

  • Maintain a direct relationship with the EU and those who share our values overseas;
  • Jump-start economic growth through exposure to a dynamic, entrepreneurial environment and new business ideas that can be brought to the United States to create jobs;
  • Reinforce America’s commitment to a free and interconnected Europe; and
  • Recommit to America’s role in the world.

The late Speaker Tip O’Neill’s (D-Mass.) aphorism that “all politics is local” is as true now as it ever was. A member of Congress with hundreds or thousands of constituents who are e-Residents of Estonia is going to think twice about raising tariffs, defunding NATO or turning inward.

And at the end of the day, we can be doing business faster, smarter and farther.

If Donald Trump won the Electoral College with a mere 100,000 votes, then 1.3 million Estonians can certainly help the world stay on track to tighter integration, better understanding, more trade and lasting peace — but only if we take them up on it.

Jeremy Epstein is CEO of Never Stop Marketing, an international consultancy specializing in blockchain and disruptive technologies. Follow him on Twitter @jer979.

Shai Franklin is a consultant on media, government relations and business development, with overseas clients including in the Soviet successor states. Follow him on Twitter @shaifranklin.

Neither Epstein nor Franklin have any business interests in Estonia.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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